DevCon13 is in the books (and blogs). I already miss the #DevCon13 hashtag.

This was by far our best DevCon ever, though I’m sure that’s exactly what I will say next year. We exceeded our goal of 350 attendees with developers, system administrators, folks who identified themselves as both under the moniker “DevOps,” and a few Bb staff members sprinkled in.

The feel at the conference was alive and kicking (but the minds were far from simple). You could feel the awesomeness pulsating from the crowds when we met as a large group, as well as in the individual tracks. Speaking of tracks, we had four amazing dedicated tracks that attendees could focus on, or if they preferred they could bounce across tracks.

  • Extending Learn: A great track for B2 developers and beyond to incorporate their own innovations into the Blackboard Learn architecture.
  • Enterprise Integration: Voted our most popular track by attendees, this track discussed the integration of enterprise systems connected to Blackboard.
  • Cross-Platform and the Cloud: A topic new for DevCon13 which included new initiatives by Blackboard in the space of mobility and multi-tenant cloud-based deployments and features.
  • Performance, Security and Monitoring: My personal favorite track, it covered scaling, securing, and measuring Blackboard Learn.

We had nine client presentations and aim to have more next year.

We were pleased to introduce Gary Lang, Blackboard’s New SVP of Product Development across all products. Gary spent a few minutes on stage sharing his background. He came to Blackboard most recently from MarkLogic. Prior to that, he spent several years driving innovation and leading large development organizations at Microsoft and Autodesk. Probably my favorite takeaway from Gary’s introduction was his vision about the next generation of Blackboard products built with a common surface area. I definitely saw a lot of excitement and enthusiasm about Gary’s ideas.

#DevCon13 (see, told you I couldn’t let go of that hash) featured our first ever live Hack-a-thon; it ran both days of the conference. We had four teams submit their B2 innovations. In the true spirit of healthy competition, there could be only one winner. And the winning team was…

(you know what sound to think)

Ian McGilloway from Imperial College in London and Joe Currie from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The two submitted a custom content item Building Block for instructors/course builders to display selected parts of an xml feed as course content items, similar to an RSS reader. With Google dropping support for its RSS reader, this was pretty good timing. Congratulations Ian and Joe for your innovation. And a hearty thank you to all the participants.

“As someone relatively new to Blackboard, DevCon has been a great opportunity to network and I’ll be leaving Las Vegas with new working partnerships.”

Ian McGilloway,  Imperial College

“I think that the event has been great. I’m not an experienced developer by any means. But being part of DevCon, and particularly the Hack-a-thon, has introduced me to other developers and provided me the chance to be part of the project with Ian. A project that will be useful for the Blackboard community and enhance my skills for the future where I can hopefully contribute more to.”

Joe Currie, Queen Margaret University

Probably my personal highlight of the conference was getting the chance to interact and listen to Gene Kim, author of The Phoenix Project, a novel about IT. Gene echoed the conference theme of building a strong DevOps culture in which developers and operations engineers work together to strengthen the bond and relationships in building, deploying and managing IT systems. Gene talked about the three ways IT organizations become high-performing IT organizations meeting and strengthening the needs of the business.



Quoted after the keynote:

“The move to a DevOps practicing organization is a huge culture shift for experienced IT shops, but it’s inevitable for the good IT shops to be successful”

-  Nick McClure, University of Kentucky

“We are going to an agile model. We have plenty of challenges in front of us. This book is so timely. It should be a good aid in helping us become more agile.”

- Angie Harper, Grantham University

“My greatest take-away is that I’m actually doing DevOps…I used to be a developer and most recently I’ve been focusing on system administration. I’ve always identified with both. Hearing Gene was great because it validated that someone else was thinking about this topic, doing the research, and identifying the pain points IT organizations go through.”

- Brandon Kish, Central Michigan University

It was a great DevCon13 and I look forward to next year’s DevCon14 back here in the fabulous Las Vegas! So let me be the first to try this out: #DevCon14.

Felt good!


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